The development history of plant grow lights Nov 20 , 2021

In 1961 the first patent for Light Emitting Diode (LED) was issued. It would take nearly 30 years for this light technology to be studied for growing and another 20 before it came to the market.


First experimented for growing by NASA in the late 1980s, first-generation LED grow lights were proven to be ineffective when using only red light at first. Eventually, red-blue light would be available; these were nicknamed “Smurf lights” and could not match the intensity of light needed for indoor growing that was available by HID lights.

Even as they evolved and more light spectrums were added to LED grow lights, they continued to be expensive and primarily used in research. It has been studied and verified that LED is far more efficient and better for the environment than HID, but it still couldn’t match what HID had produced for years.


It would be the year 2000 when LED was first used in Japan for commercial growing light operations; in the early 2000s, LED lights were still not a mainstream option for most commercial growers. A huge reason for this is cost. It can cost $6 or more per square foot, depending on the LED fixture and compared to HID counterparts.

Although the industry experienced a significant price drop of 90% since 2008 for the cost of a single home use LED light bulb. That price drop shows LED trending towards affordable for all LED markets.

LED technology being worked on right now focuses on two categories. LED manufacturers concentrating on horticulture are working on lights for the specific stages of plant growth and keeping the cost of fixtures down. The benefit of this will be more cost-effective solutions and more straightforward implementation from HID lighting.

Another category is specialty LED manufacturers working on one LED fixture to control the lights during each growth stage. This category is the future of grow-light technology. The ability for growers to control the color and intensity of light, day to day or season to season, is changing grow light technology.

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